This week’s Tribe Spotlight features Nick Ionadi. Nick is the Kiski Area Senior High School head girls varsity basketball coach.
I began coaching as an assistant coach on the boys’ side for 8 years. In 2011, I had an opportunity to work as a girls varsity assistant at Kiski Area Senior High School. When the job opened the next year, I took a chance and was selected as the schools 4th head coach in a five-year span. I knew it was a big job as we were staring a complete and total rebuild.
As I started restructuring the program three things were evident to me: First we had to drive numbers upwards and create an effective feeder system. Second, this focus on the youth system coupled with so few girls in high school wanting to play meant that the varsity would struggle a few seasons letting what we called a “trickle up” effect occur. Finally, we needed a system of play that would not only physically teach the girls to play, but also increase their understanding of the game, and everything down to terminology had to be consistent. That is when I discovered the Read and React.
I was familiar with the Read and React from my time as an assistant and immediately set about implementing it at all levels. As of right now, we currently have teams at each grade level from 5 to 12, with our 3rd and 4th grade team starting this winter. Nearly 100 girls are now playing district wide and are all learning the Read and React at its’ layers based on their grade as we scaffold it year to year. It is like a classroom curriculum.
The results are beginning to show. Our 5th and 6th grade team learning the basics of layers 1 through 3 went 9-3 last season, and my 7th and 8th grade teams whom struggled so badly the prior five years began to close the gap on the teams that previously we struggled to compete with, by scoring more and more each game. The players started understanding how and when to cut and the importance of spacing and balance. Last November, the 7th and 8th grade teams began to physically compete against teams that previously we could not keep up with. There were no wins, but suddenly the scores were 30-25, as opposed to 50-3. In February, they began picking up wins in a winter league including one by eight points over the same team that beat them by 50 a few months earlier. This summer we played in a varsity summer league and those girls suddenly were beating teams five years their senior and scoring in the 30’s and 40’s consistently, including a stretch of four wins in a row.
The returning varsity girls are also beginning to show signs of growth as well. Turnover numbers have dropped rapidly in spring play and suddenly we started picking up wins in a spring/summer league we didn’t win a game in last year. When combined with our girls going into grades 8 and 9, they finished 7-4 in our league, advancing to the semifinals. This was a team made up of one senior, five sophomores, six girls going to be freshman and another 13 girls going into 8th grade, with two heading into 7th grade. Offense is no longer an issue as our girls are doubling their output from their respective seasons. And through all of this, I did not call a single offensive set all summer, I simply let the girls play the game. They were beginning to make plays on their own, and directing traffic without my guidance. That to me is the truest sign of growth as a player.
As we move into the 2015 season, we now know where we are going and who we will be. The varsity team is continuing to grow and hoping to be more competitive this year. Beginning in 2016, the younger girls who have been running the Read & React for the better part of thee years will begin to filter onto varsity and combine with our current varsity girls who are also learning the game via Better Basketball. It is simply a matter of time now and this particular style has helped fast track our girl’s development. At that time we will begin to rapidly improve and get back into the race. A large part of that is because of the fact the girls are being allowed to play the game and grow within this offensive system.
The Read & React is an offense that is easy to break down and drill, and the players enjoy it. They like the creative freedom they get out of it and it has deepened their understanding of the game while increasing their basketball IQs. It can be modified to adjust to any defensive scheme. In just a short time, have already seen so much improvement from the understanding of the offensive side of the game from our girls. As we continue to work with this offense, we cannot wait to see where it goes from here.